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Can someone help me understand this behaviour and how to deal with it?

(27 Posts)
SteppingOnToes Tue 27-Dec-16 09:27:32

DSS is 5, very bright, very lovely but hugely sulky and destructive if he doesn't get his own way. (DSD is 10, is also bright but well behaved, just occasionally a bit of a know-it-all which just gets ignored).

I have a good relationship with DSS in that we have a pleasant, friendly and cuddly relationship, but I do not interfere with discipline unless I am the only adult in the room and he is doing something dangerous.

He is a delightful child to be around, he is articulate and funny, but if he doesn't get his own way, or told no, he just flips and hits or tries to break something. DP deals with him by quietly trying to rationalise with him but it does not work as he is so angry he isn't thinking, and he is also very, very good at arguing back and denying he did anything wrong (he will claim it was someone else even when you see him doing it). So it usually ends up in what DP calls compromise, but I call bribery...

Just to give an example - we have a heavily pregnant cat (not irresponsible owners - it is a stray who turned up on the doorstep and it was only when we took her to get neutered we found out she was pregnant). DSS saw the cat scratching the carpet and ran up to her shouting 'stop it' and kicked her -he has been told not to tell the cat off but to tell an adult-. Fortunately the cat managed to get behind the sofa. As I was the only adult around I pulled him up on it and said something along the lines of "Stop that now. Don't you ever kick animals, it's very cruel and she has babies in her tummy who might get hurt". I did not raise my voice (DP's ex will not allow raised voices), but I did speak sternly to him. His immediate response was to reply with "I didn't kick her I just moved her with my foot" - he didn't as I was there and heard the thud. I refuse to get drawn into debates with him as to whether he has, or hasn't, done something as he will just lie about what he has done even when he knows the adult knows he is lying (he can actually claim he isn't doing something whilst being stood there still doing it in front of you). I just repeated that he must not do what he did to the cat (not mentioning kicking just that whatever it was mustn't happen again. Because I refused to be drawn into a debate I got "Noone ever listens to me" - from his father (and I assume mother) this draws out another debate so as not to hurt his feelings. I replied "I will listen to you when you are behaving." - this resulted in him kicking one of his toys he had been given for christmas (main present) which I removed from him and put out of reach. DSS then sat on the floor and sulked and I took the cat out of the room. I gave him 5 minutes to have his stew and went back in, asked him he was ready to come and play the game we were about to play and he came in and sat on my knee and it was all over. The whole thing was started and over in less than 10 minutes - reasoning and a debate tends to result in worse and worse behaviour escalating and it continuing for at least an hour, if not niggly, deliberate bad behaviour, for the rest of the day. It was over in 10 minutes and he behaved impeccably (and kindly to the cat) for the rest of the day.

Just so as not to drip feed - I do not have any children myself but did have part custody (weekends and holidays) of my cousin's children after she died so do have some experience with children. They came to live with me part time as respite for their grandparents after their mother died. I was very young at the time, only 21, and still at uni (I was working full time and at uni on day release and had my own place) so that was a huge learning curve for me, but despite them being quite damaged children, they were almost always well behaved and never destructive or violent.

So the question is - how do you deal with a child who resorts to destructive/violent behaviour when they are told no? He also claims noone listens to him (they do) and uses the go-to words of "shut up" and "you're stupid" - I take this to mean that they are the words he considers most hurtful so purposely never use them around him myself. Was I way off the mark and would I have been better disciplining how his father does and trying to reason with him? Does "no-the reason reason-self reflection-then end" work? He never actually conceded that he had even done something wrong and didn't apologise (I have never heard either child apologise for anything), but he did behave impeccably for the rest of the day -normally we have several "dos" a day and this was the only one. I'm totally second guessing myself about all this.

FWIW I didn't tell his father about the behaviour as he would have taken him aside and explained why he mustn't do what he did and as DSS had only just calmed down, and would be likely to get riled again, I didn't feel it would serve a purpose. I will tell him later today after I have finished work as I do feel him kicking animals needs addressing, but perhaps in a neutral situation so as not to be antagonistic and so it might sink in.

Before anyone comes out with the stock phrase of "you sound like you don't like him very much". I do like him very much, I just don't like his behaviour and am struggling to deal with it.

user1477282676 Tue 27-Dec-16 10:06:57

I'm not going to say "oh you don't like him:" I'd be absolutely raging if one of my children kicked a cat!

It would be serious enough for me to take something away for good. I would sell some of his toys and donate it to Cat's Protection.

SteppingOnToes Tue 27-Dec-16 12:47:50

User - I would do exactly that if he was my child but as he is my DSD I have no control over punishments and have to fit in with what his parents see fit however much I may disagree with it

MrsJayy Tue 27-Dec-16 12:59:35

Oh dear he sounds a handful who has had far to much to say for himself

I think keeping your responses short and don't argue with him is absolutley the way to go.
kicking the cat for example , I would have said you have to be gentle even if you are moving it with your foot so you are turning back what he said on him iyswim no raised voices is fine but i think it is ok for you to be stern if you have to be no long discussions just short responses. His dad needs to be on board he will hopefully learn your house rules

SteppingOnToes Tue 27-Dec-16 13:23:56

MrsJayy - he is and he does, but he is intelligent and articulate and doesn't realise that he is 5 and just sometimes needs to do as he is told...

I would have said you have to be gentle even if you are moving it with your foot so you are turning back what he said - I've tried this tact and it turns things into a debate. An example was him throwing my phone on the coffee table after he was done playing a game on it. I said for him not to throw the phone to which he replied "I didn't I placed it down" a lie. My reply to this was that it could get broken handling it like it was to which he replied "but I didn't break it so why are you telling me off?". He has an answer for everything and it is exhausting trying to outwit him and frankly I don't see why I should have to. When now he reaches for my phone, and more lately asks to play on it, I tell him his phone privileges have been withdrawn until he can demonstrate that he can handle expensive items carefully. It's rewarding (??) watching him being ever so careful placing something down and then saying "Stepping I was careful then, did you see me?". I've taken to acknowledging when he does take care with things before he even looks for approval and perhaps should have all along to encourage good behaviour.

redexpat Tue 27-Dec-16 13:53:51

You really need to get dh on the same page. Im not sure how you would have a conversation about it without sounding critical though. I suppose you could go a bit PA and say hey I was on mn earlier and a poster recommended this book, so i got it from the library/downloaded it to the kindle etc.

MrsJayy Tue 27-Dec-16 13:59:22

Aww he does sound lovely when he isnt being distructive I often think children who push like this are just looking for the boundry (sp) op I think he is just a little boy who has been given control to much to young and he doesn't know how to cope

MrsJayy Tue 27-Dec-16 14:01:02

And I think praising him when he is doing something nice or gentle is a good way to go.

KarmaNoMore Tue 27-Dec-16 14:09:00

I think sometimes we over rationalise with young children. Yes, it is the right thing to talk things through with them but if you clearly see they are getting a free ticket out of the problem by talking and show no regrets whatsoever, just talking won't take you anyekwhere.

Unfortunately, the one who needs to sort this is your husband.

... having said that, my ex was a wonderful Disneyland dad, and his child always behaved in an appalling way when my ex was in the room. He wouldn't mess up with me when we were in our own, which makes me think that some kids only push your buttons when they know you will put up with it.

I think my answer to the I moved it gently with my foot, would have been, I think we both know that you didn't, if you do it again you will be in BIG trouble. At the end of the day if he is lying about moving it gently is because he already knows that kicking the cat is not good behaviour.

Crumbs1 Tue 27-Dec-16 14:09:41

Sounds like a spoilt brat, sorry. Raising your voice and helping him realise who is in charge now will save huge problems later on. Children need clear boundaries and sanctions when boundaries are crossed.
Need to learn not to answer back, not to use violence and behave himself.
In your house he should follow your rules -what his mother likes is irrelevant unless you are being abusive (which you are not).
Children can't always be negotiated with - they lack abstract thought processes at that age and sometimes just need to be told.

MaisieDotes Tue 27-Dec-16 14:13:06

The bit you've crossed out above is probably the most crucial part.

He will bask in the glow of your approval and it will reduce the naughtiness, I promise you.

SteppingOnToes Tue 27-Dec-16 19:27:58

Maisie - you're right. I do actually do this, probably without realising. It's just harder when they are being naughty... For example when we came away from their grandparents on boxing day I said to them in the car (in front of their dad) "It's been a lovely day today and it's been brilliant that you have been so good all day - you should be really proud of yourselves".

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 10:00:22

Does anyone else have any strategies before he is back later?

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 12:57:12

Wish me luck, he's back here shortly smile

MaisieDotes Wed 28-Dec-16 13:58:11

You're on the right track stepping just keep going smile

Have you got the wine in for later grin

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 15:20:11

Maisie I have two bottles of sangria - special offer in the coop at £2 so couldn't leave them

MrsJayy Wed 28-Dec-16 17:53:54

Tbf a lot of child rearing is assisted by wine how has he been today?

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 18:28:10

He's been good as gold. helped clear up a glass of water he spilled when asked - normally it would have resulted in tears. Went on a mission to find all of his Nerf gun bullets that he refused to look for yesterday. Ate his veg before his meat on his meal so he had nice bits to finish last (a suggestion I made several weeks ago). Helped me build a fort so he could sit and have some quiet time (this never happens - the kids are totally overstimulated). He helped clear up plates and put them in the sink.

But perhaps the biggest breakthrough was with the cat. He was stroking her and she yelped - I chose my words carefully and said "Kitty isn't happy with she was stroked. Next time if we do it more gently to make her happy". Every other criticism of his handling of the cat has resulted lies, tears and tantrums - today he accepted that he was wrong and agreed to behave differently next time. Result!

Isadora2007 Wed 28-Dec-16 18:35:10

Honestly I think you're dealing with things really well.
My nephew has oppositional defiance disorder as well as ASD and one thing that helps is learning to say things in a different way.
So not saying "no" or "don't"
But rather rephrasing. So e.g. If he is handling something harshly instead of saying "don't do that-it will break" you can say "please be gentle like I saw you with x or y"

But it sounds like you're actually turning things around by noticing his good points and his efforts and rewarding them with attention etc and giving him firm but fair boundaries.

Hassled Wed 28-Dec-16 18:44:23

I agree it sounds like you're handling him well. I also agree that clear boundaries are actually very useful to some children - you can talk and rationalise and reason until the cows come home, but sometimes what children need to hear is "no, you can't do that". They need the security of knowing that there's a line they cannot cross. If everything is always fluid and negotiable it doesn't give them much stability.

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 21:06:37

They've just gone home now. I got a big hug when they left which was lovely. He got quite cross at one point - he was clearly frustrated about something but no one knew what it was. I said to him "I can see you are frustrated and it's making you angry". And he came over and sat on my knee. I didn't quiz him what was wrong as this seems to make him worse. He just seems to need someone to listen and acknowledge the issue and it seems to calm him enough to deal with it. I suppose like an emotional hand hold?

Today has been the best behaved the two of them have been yet when I have been there.

I might use this thread as a bit of a diary of my days with the kids so I can look back and see what was successful and what wasn't.

Something that does seem to work with him is single words. For example if there is a glass his is at risk of knocking over, it seems to give a better result saying "glass", rather than "be careful around the glass". It's almost like the distraction of listening to the sentence is enough and one word makes him stop and wonder what I mean about it - "oh yes, It's a glass, I must be careful". Could it be successful as rather than being told, it is making him think about his actions? Weird though as sometimes it feels a bit like barking at him, even though it's always said nicely.

Adult-children dynamics really do fascinate me.

MrsJayy Wed 28-Dec-16 21:20:36

Sounds like you had a good day that is what I meant by short and sweet words if you say to much to them they glaze over. here is to more good days ☺

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 21:23:42

Thanks MrsJayy - it does seem to work smile

redexpat Wed 28-Dec-16 21:41:29

Have you read how to talk so children will listen? Youve basically reproduced the first 2 chapters in your recent posts. And youre doing positive commands - hands off! rather than dont touch.

SteppingOnToes Wed 28-Dec-16 21:49:34

I've not heard of it no. I assume its a self help type book? I don't really have much spare time to read - I work full time 45-50 hours a week, nights, weekends, have 3 horses, 2 dogs and chickens so don't really get much sit down time (im 38 and have never owned a telly lol). Parenting boys is very new to me - would it be worth getting it as an ebook maybe?

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